At age 10, I badgered my folks with a chant that went something like, “A horse, a bike or a dog. I want a horse, a bike or a dog!”
My memories of ages 3 through 9 are spotted with standing in welfare lines waiting for beans, commodities of one sort or another and corduroy cloth in yellow and maroon and vomiting the remains of a contaminated wiener by the side of the house. It was a weekly treat from the local butcher, Mr. Voss.
Added to this mystery mix is the death of a toad being swallowed by a snake, the funeral of an infant, whittling boats out of ivory soap and pine bark and making bows and arrows out of willow branches.
And, oh yes, the attack on Pearl Harbor, the day of infamy that ushered in the United States entry into the second war that engulfed most of the planet. It brought with it an unexpected social and economic prosperity to my underclass life. So, a horse, a bike or a dog seemed to me to be within the grasp of these old people I had lived with so long.
Well, the dog followed me home one day and I got to keep him. Spot had already learned to bark at and chase cars, trains and every thing else with wheels. He was run over by a truck trailer called a cattle car used by the Navy to transport personnel. Injured and shot for humane reasons he was incinerated in a 55 gallon oil drum used to burn garbage. My mother thought a 35 mile car trip to get a haircut and a bowl of soup at Queen Ann’s Tea room might make the image go away. It didn’t.
The horse I got to climb on in my Sunday-go-to meeting wool serge pants was so broad of back that my legs stuck out like the vanes of a windmill. I didn’t know whether to hang on or jump off to escape.
The only bicycle these old people could find to buy for me at the closest Sears and Roebuck store was a delivery bike with a small wheel in front with a huge basket on top. Balance was difficult for a normal short legged 10 year old and damn near impossible for me.